Obsessive compulsive disorder - OCD treatment and therapy from NOCD

ROCD, Health OCD, Sensorimotor OCD

When Your Fear Comes True

By Jesse Miller

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Hey there!  My name is Jesse, I am 26 years old, and I have gone through the recovery program at NOCD.  I was born and raised in the great state of Maryland.  I spend my mornings working in a bakery, and my afternoons as an inside sales associate for a realtor. I’m a huge social butterfly and regularly spend my free time with friends, family, and my two wonderful handsome boys (my cats).  I am also frequently on the NOCD community app helping with your questions and advocating for Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). 

I received my diagnosis of OCD in August 2020 and went through the recovery program from February 2021-May 2021.  Not only do I spend my time advocating on NOCD, but I use instagram as an outlet for OCD awareness.  As we all know though, recovery is never linear.  OCD can sneak up on us at any given time.  When my OCD triggers became real life events, I was able to use the tools my OCD specialist gave me to challenge my worst fears. Instead of leaning back into old habits and being riddled with anxiety, I stepped forward to the challenge. I was confident in the skills I learned in ERP.

Relationship themes

Leading up to being diagnosed with OCD I was struggling with relationship themed OCD (ROCD).  My husband was planning on leaving the country for a year, I could only feel fear that our marriage wouldn’t be able to handle the stress of our time apart.  I constantly fell into my compulsions and asked for reassurance from him.  Would we make it?  What if we end up divorced?  I felt like I had to have control of the situation, I had to be certain.  I was reading relationship articles, watching therapy videos, and constantly googling how to feel perfect in our relationship.  I thought that maybe we should consider marriage counseling, but then I decided to take a different look at what was going on. 

My anxiety was eating me alive by this time. I never had a worry about our marriage previously.  We had a healthy bond and I always felt incredibly lucky to be with someone as amazing as him.  I decided to take a chance and to work in therapy on my own. I know that I needed to work on my own fears, and discovered that ROCD existed and this is what I struggled with.  I started to gain some relief and a new pattern of coping skills developed. When my husband left the country I leaned into the uncertainty of what our future would hold.

The time arrived and my husband was planning to return home to the states. That’s when it happened. My worst fear was realized. He notified me that he would like us to go our separate ways when he returned home.  He no longer wanted to be married. I felt a rush of obsessions.  What could I have done to stop this?  What if I would have done things differently?  What if my OCD thoughts never came up?  What if I caused this? An endless spiral of “what ifs” entered into my mind.  I stayed up at night ruminating and trying to answer what had gone wrong. 

In reality, I had no answer and I still don’t.  I remember feeling like I was experiencing a huge set back. I was left feeling as if all the hard work I had accomplished in therapy for my relationship themed OCD were washed away.  My worst fear was happening, my marriage had failed.  

I immediately scheduled a call with my OCD specialist to talk about the decision my husband made. I felt overwhelming embarrassment.  There I sat, explaining that I felt like I was moving backwards, and that all the progress I made had failed. 

It was at this crucial turning point in my life that NOCD therapy helped me the most. One of my fears had become a real life event.  It happened, my marriage fell apart. It was then that it all clicked. I realized that recovery from OCD was never supposed to stop our “what ifs” from happening, it was supposed to help us cope if they did happen. I knew that I could tolerate these feelings of discomfort and anxiety, I knew I would get through this.  Before discovering ERP, I would have been stuck in the cycle of compulsions.  I would have wanted answers, to fix the situation so that I could prevent it in the future. 

My marriage failed, but it didn’t make me a failure.  

Health OCD

One of my many fears that I was trying to learn to challenge in recovery was my fear of having a hidden disease.  I worried that I had some mysterious illness that even the doctors couldn’t locate.  I would constantly check my pulse and google my symptoms. I was caught up in endless rumination and checking rituals.

Recovery from OCD meant that I very rarely reached out to google when I felt sick.  I began to become more comfortable with the uncertainty that I didn’t have to know why every single ache, cough, and sensation that was happening in my body. 

Once again my skills were tested, I found out I had a tumor on my thyroid in June 2021, I didn’t even panic. Even funnier, my doctor isn’t the one who found it, my dentist was.  Before living in recovery, this would have sent me into a spiral.  This would have made me want to rush to the hospital immediately.  I would have started googling every symptom possible.  Instead, I very calmly accepted the news and got testing done on my thyroid to figure out the answer.

Later I learned that I had hypothyroidism from an autoimmune disease called Hashimotos.  I was told that the tumor may have developed due to my autoimmune disease.  Unfortunately, they were not sure if it was cancerous or if it was benign.  My test results on my thyroid kept coming back inconclusive.  The only way to make sure that it was not cancerous was to have the left side of my thyroid removed through surgery.  I could feel anxiety rising up in me.  I sensed the obsessions wanting to kick into overdrive.  The compulsions wanted to latch onto the fear of cancer.  I could feel my mind pulling me back to the old habits of what OCD wanted.

I made a decision, I sat with the idea of uncertainty.  No amount of reassurance seeking was going to change the outcome. I had to let go of this false sense of security, this need for control. Each time I felt anxiety creeping up before my surgery, I simply let it visit.  I allowed myself to sit with my emotions and the physical sensations that my body needed to go through to process this situation. This is something I could not have done prior to having ERP treatment.

After having surgery,  I learned the tumor was benign.  No cancer!  Recovery was painful at first, and again, OCD wanted to try to show up.  I felt a lot of sensory overload after surgery; neck stiffness, swallowing felt weird, all the muscles in my upper back were aching.  I used to panic when I would concentrate on the sensations in my body.  Would I get stuck thinking about it for hours?  What if I couldn’t stop noticing the sensation of my throat?  ERP reminded me to get comfortable with the sensations.  I was able to notice the presence of pain and sit with the discomfort.  I’m 4 months out from having had surgery and guess what?  I often forget the sensations and the pain of surgery.  I sometimes even forget I have a scar on my neck now.

I feel fortunate with the coping skills I picked up through my recovery at NOCD.  Not only has it helped me with the fears that were “made up” inside my head, when reality throws me real life exposures, I am prepared to take the anxiety on. I believe that ERP can help anyone, even those without OCD. Learning to challenge your fears instead of letting them stop you from the life you’re meant to live and the lessons you’re supposed to face is life changing.  General anxiety can be anything; stage fright, driving a car, social events, etc.  ERP can give you the power to challenge the “what ifs” and make any fearful or embarrassing situation feel a lot less intense.  You will learn how to not take comfort in your compulsions, you will learn you are strong enough to take on any exposure that might come your way.

If you ever would like to see what I’m up to – feel free to give me a follow on my instagram @jessbeanss.  

I am also a brand ambassador for theocdopus.com.  Help spread the awareness of OCD and get a 10% discount from the shop by using code Jesse10 at checkout.

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If you're struggling with OCD, you can schedule a free 15-minute call today with the NOCD care team to learn how a licensed therapist can help. At NOCD, all therapists specialize in OCD and receive ERP-specific training.